In various incarnations I have lived in Chicago and in Cincinnati, and my brother lives in Indianapolis. So a Chicago-Indianapolis Super Bowl covers familiar territory. Add the fact of its being played in Miami, my current stomping grounds, and I feel close to the event, even proprietary. I hate to sour the grapes… to pick the bones… or the nits… but perhaps, if I may, a quibble, a trifle really. Except it touches upon a sore spot — better said, a sere spot — on the cultural and political landscape of this great nation.
When Chicago won the NFC championship, the announcers celebrated Lovie Smith becoming the first black coach of a Super Bowl team. Three hours hence, Indianapolis took the AFC title, and they sheepishly congratulated Tony Dungy on becoming the second black coach of a Super Bowl team. All of which had the effect of canceling the novelty. Now it all looks a bit silly. While I wholeheartedly congratulate these two men on their excellence, I think this provides a golden opportunity to exorcise this species of idiocy.
The segregation of achievement by race or national origin has always been an affront to the oversoul of America. Is there some qualitative quintessence in being the first Japanese-American NASCAR driver? The first American Indian jockey? The first Indian-American hockey player? The credo of the United States does not distinguish between creeds or raise race as a legitimate factor. Tribal tabulation of our tribulations is troubling.
Yet this egalitarian sensibility has long been more honored, so to speak, in the breach, as it were, than in the observance, to coin a phrase. Racial groupings are noted discretely, not discreetly. A few years ago, Andres Gallaraga hit his three-hundred-and-something home run (he finished with 399), passing Tony Armas to set a new career record for homers by a Venezuelan-American. Ya gotta be kidding, I thought, but no: the slenderer the sliver, the sparser the splinter, the more trumpeted the triumph.
That’s just the way it is. We all must know that Madeleine Albright is the first woman Secretary of State and Jeane Kirkpatrick is the first woman U. S. Ambassador to the UN and Derek Jeter is the first interracial Most Valuable Player of an All-Star Game and John F. Kennedy is the first Catholic President and Nancy Pelosi is the first woman Italian-American Speaker and the first Polish-American editor of The American Spectator is that guy Plesz–something. No one gets to be a person without also being a place or thing.
The defenders of this ethnic ethic posit the following logic. Since these groups experience discrimination, we must provide protection. To protect them we must designate them as a target category. Once the categorization is inescapable, it might as well be refocused to highlight virtues and attainments. The path from the premise to the conclusion is seamless, but the premise itself is awful. We allow wrongdoing to establish the framework for our norms; can that possibly be healthy?
Perhaps the most insane moment in this arena came when Halle Berry received an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2002. She stepped to the microphone and tearfully opened: “Oh my God. I’m sorry. This moment is so much bigger than me.” She dedicated her Oscar to all the great black actresses of the past who did not win, naming Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne and Diahann Carroll among others, and “every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.” Then the camera panned to her proud mother sitting in the balcony — a white woman with blonde hair.
The fact is there is no such thing as race. Believers in the Bible know all of mankind to be descended from the same two people. And a Time magazine article in the January 26, 1987 issue cited DNA evidence indicating all humanity descends from one woman. In that context, it becomes absurd to argue there is some intrinsic dividing line between two lines of human beings. Sure, cultures and societies can develop civilizations which foster superior mores. But this pseudo-scientific classification of races is a crock. Yet even the protesters against racism buy the fiction of race as a real concept.
For goodness’ sake, this must stop. We are all immigrants here and we must refuse to shore up this wretched teaming. The only real teams in this country are squads like the Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts, where whites and blacks, Jews and Christians and who knows what-all, combine supplementary talents to create an encompassing unit. This unit then works toward a common goal. These sports teams are a microcosm of our nation in its ideal mode. We need to kick the other attitude out and touch down in a cultural end zone of mutual respect.